The Digital Age has impacted hugely on the way business is carried out. I don’t think we have really started yet. The difference between using the Internet and being part of the Digital Age is enormous and I believe the majority of people are not thinking digitally yet, they are purely following a crowd and not completely committing to the tools and the technology to solve business problems.

Small Businesses are slowly becoming better equipped to embrace the digital age, but I really am staggered that this market is not embracing it faster. When I am speaking at conferences across the country there is a fear and a level of procrastination, I have a great deal of empathy with this, after all not everyone likes or is comfortable with technology but for us to compete, innovate and grow as a Nation we have to make a commitment in the next 5 years to be a ‘Digital nation’.

I am often asked whether businesses can really benefit from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. My response is always that these are excellent tools for business but not when approached with a transactional mindset. This is the big shift that those born before the Digital Age have to make. The social networks and knowledge sharing tools like YouTube are not Sales Channels, they are supportive, learning and friendship places and therefore providing you can stop being transactional and start being a friend and looking for ways to ‘support and serve’ people you will achieve the following that people are trying to achieve.

The biggest challenge facing businesses going forward is how to blend networking and the digital age. Social Media and broadcasting provides an opportunity for you to get your message out into the world one to many. Social networking is conversational, a way of having a conversation between one to one or one to few. The journey between the two is critical to achieve a ‘following’ becoming Known, then Liked is the journey from being a ‘broadcaster’ to being a ‘friend’. Missing this critical part out will keep you in a shallow depth of water and you will never learn to swim.

So what is the future for digital marketing and how will impact the face to face meetings we have all come to associate with networking? I don’t think that the offline world will disappear completely, far from it. Ecademy is one of the oldest social networks, we have been going since 1998 and we have always provided events and face to face opportunities, either in groups or through being able to book 121 meetings on the calendar. We are seeing a growth in this area. We now have a facility to come together in ‘Boardroom’ style meetings in your local town and these are growing in popularity.

We are in a Digital Age, we must recognise this, adpat and innovate to be part of it. Through history we can see that recessionary times create innovators due to people accessing creative ways to solve problems and generate income. The Digital World will feed a new generation of people and my mission is to make sure that the UK is part of the Global Digital Conversation and Marketplace.